Elkhart community reacts to EEE death

ELKHART, IND. (WNDU) - A Cass County, Michigan, man who died became the latest local victim of the Eastern equine encephalitis virus.

First Hoosier death related to EEE reported in Elkhart

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirms his was the fifth death in the state from the mosquito-borne virus.

That news comes as we learned more about the first person who died from EEE in Indiana. That person was from Elkhart County.

Elkhart County is one of the communities that used an aerial spray in hopes of killing most of the mosquitoes carrying EEE.

Health officials say that the person who died contracted the disease before they sprayed.

Still, health officials are urging folks to be cautious of mosquitoes when spending time outside.

Even though temperatures have dropped, mosquitoes are still biting.
The Elkhart County Health Department says people should still apply bug spray containing DEET when going outside and avoid being out during dusk and dawn.

Wooded areas with standing water where mosquito populations are highest should be avoided, and that can sometimes be a challenge in Elkhart County.

“The mosquitoes like to breed in the boggy areas, the marshy areas, hard-wood swamps. If you know of a forest area that really never gets dry under the ground, that's mosquito heaven. Just by chance, Elkhart County has a lot of these areas,” Elkhart County health officer Lydia Mertz said.

16 News Now spoke to some Elkhart community members who said they're staying aware of mosquitoes until EEE season is over, especially in light of the recent death in their county.

“Now, I'm very scared. I know they sprayed, so I was happy about that, but now that somebody's died, it's even more scary. But you can't stay in the house all the time,” Elkhart resident Rachel Rodriguez said.

“Just be generally aware when you're outdoors or go out camping or biking or walking. Try to stay out of the woodsy area a little bit or away from stagnant water. Keep your place clean,” Elkhart resident Sharon McDowell advised.

In Michigan, half of the reported cases have proven to be fatal.